The town has begun its process to find a new head of the North Reading Fire Department to assume command when Chief Richard Harris steps down in April.
Town Administrator Greg Balukonis is accepting applications for an acting chief through the end of this week, he told the Board of Selectmen on Monday night. The acting chief will fill the role until a permanent replacement is hired, Balukonis said.
Harris will retire from the department April 15. He announced his decision to Balukonis and the Board of Selectmen earlier this month.
“Certainly we need to proceed with hiring an acting chief on a fairly quick basis,” Balukonis said.
The acting chief will not be able to transition into a permanent position, Balukonis said, because the permanent chief is subject to a civil service examination or assessment center.
Balukonis said he would lean toward using an assessment center instead of a straight written examination when hiring for the permanent position. An assessment center presents different exercises and scenarios to candidates and allows interviewers the opportunity to see how they respond, according to the Massachusetts Municipal Association website.
Balukonis said the town used an assessment center when Harris was hired as chief four years ago. The assessment center still falls within the civil service guidelines, said Board of Selectmen Chairman Robert Mauceri.
Selectmen Stephen O’Leary lauded Harris for the work he has done as chief and as a firefighter during the course of his career, saying his retirement will be a loss for the town.
“I wish him well,” O’Leary said. “I called him and asked him to reconsider. I’ll ask him publicly: Rich, reconsider.”